Lena Dunham Defends Decision to Detail Her Rape in ‘Not That Kind of Girl’
In her memoir 'Not That Kind of Girl,' Lena Dunham made the difficult decision to detail a time she was in college in which she says she was date raped by a fellow Oberlin College student. Since then, she's received a great amount of backlash for sharing the story, with many people questioning the validity of her claims.
Lena, however, says she refuses to back down or apologize for her decision to include details of the assault in her book, despite many attacks on her character and the vilification she's received from both people and the media because of it.
In an open letter written for BuzzFeed, Lena talks about her decision to be honest about the rape. She says the only thing she's sorry for is any confusion about the identity of the man who raped her. She used the pseudonym 'Barry,' but it looks like some people who were unaware of the fake name have taken to harassing a man who's actually named Barry, but not connected with the assault. Lena says: "To be very clear, 'Barry' is a pseudonym, not the name of the man who assaulted me, and any resemblance to a person with this name is an unfortunate and surreal coincidence. I am sorry about all he has experienced."
She goes on to let readers in on why she made her decision to be honest in her memoir and why her ultimate decision to not contact the man who raped her stands: "Speaking out was never about exposing the man who assaulted me. Rather, it was about exposing my shame, letting it dry out in the sun. I did not wish to be contacted by him or to open a criminal investigation. I am in a loving and peaceful place in my life and I am not willing to sacrifice any more of it for this person I do not know, aside from one night I will never forget. That is my choice."
Like so many victims of rape and sexual assault, Lena did not report what happened that night out of fear. She explains, "I was afraid that no one would believe me. I was afraid other potential partners would consider me damaged goods. I was afraid I was overreacting. I was afraid it was my fault. I was afraid he would be angry. Eight years later, I know just how classic these fears are. They are the reason that the majority of college women who are assaulted will never report it."
She ultimately decided to detail the assault after hearing other women come forward with their own experiences. "I was inspired by all the brave women who are now coming forward with their own experiences, despite the many risks associated with speaking out," she writes. "Survivors are so often re-victimized by a system that demands they prove their purity and innocence. They are asked to provide an unassailable narrative when the event itself is hazy, fragmented, and unspeakable. They are isolated and betrayed by people close to them who doubt their reality or are frustrated by their inability to move on. Their most intimate experiences are made public property."
But despite the invasive questioning, the negativity and the assault on her character, Lena is glad she shared her story with the world. It was a way for her to deal with something she felt was terrible and violating. She ends her letter with a powerful statement: "Survivors have the right to tell their stories, to take back control after the ultimate loss of control. There is no right way to survive rape and there is no right way to be a victim. What survivors need more than anything is to be supported, whether they choose to pursue a criminal investigation or to rebuild their world on their own terms. You can help by never defining a survivor by what has been taken from her. You can help by saying I believe you."
You can read her full statement here.